Today we opted to visit the Kids Work Children’s Museum in Frankfort IL. Not knowing where Frankfort is I was surprised to learn it was about 30 minutes from us on the other side of Joliet. At first glance you may miss this museum since it is located inside of a large barn like structure that is an interesting take on a “mall”. It is a conglomerate of shops including Kernel Sweet Tooth – an ice cream and sweet shop that sells a lemon-line sorbet that my kids gobbled up. The best part – they sell it in mini cone size – the perfect before lunch treat to satisfy a tiny sweet tooth and quell the masses so we can make it to lunch. For non vegans, or those who like dairy, there were a few interesting ice cream choices. My hubs palette landed on a homemade chocolate waffle cone with chocolate covered pretzel ice cream. They even serve homemade designer cookies, dipped pretzel sticks, tea and coffee.
When you first enter the building you are hit with the wafting smell of popcorn from Kernel Sweet Tooth as you pass through double doors into a railway car bound for Frankfort. On our way into the building we passed an outdoor park Pork Chop event that had the whole town buzzing on a less than sunny Sunday. The whole feel of the town was quaint and quiet. We parked our car in a municipal lot attached to a wonderful trail lined park. There were dozens of families unloading bicycles for a ride.
The KidsWork Museum is not the largest children’s museum out there. In fact it is the smallest we have been to yet. Great things come in small packages definitely rings true for this museum. There is a dinosaur dig exhibit whose size pales in comparison to CCM’s but the kids still have a ball digging up bones.
There are far less visitors to contend with as well which makes this kids outing spot a hidden gem for parents looking for a quieter experience. After our day at the ever noisy Navy Pier museum I felt blessed for receiving this reprieve.
The entrance to the museum is tucked away down a hall and through a set of French doors that open right into the main floor. The main floor houses a toddler tot lot with slide and climbing place, a small fire fighting station with dress up clothes, a large playhouse the height of a child, some soft play building blocks, a larger than life version of Operation the Game, a dinosaur exhibit dig station and some other here and there areas with books and toys. There is a lot of natural light and a good amount of air flow. Everyone in our family had a good time on the first floor of the museum. My husband and I joined couldn’t resist joining our eldest son in Operation and even though he is 12 now, he still had fun with the dinosaur display. I have been trying harder to treat him as an individual and not a preteen. I know this sounds like a very simple idea but I have been guilty in the past of dealing with him based on perceptions of what a “pre-teen” is like “moody, sassy, irreverent” and my son just isn’t these things. He is still a child and enjoys his innocence. Although I can see him struggling for autonomy from the family unit I also see his desire to fit in and be a part of the group. This was evident when I came downstairs later to find him at the dino table. He had sorted the dinosaurs into herbivores and carnivores but wasn’t sure of some of his choices. I offered to look the questionable species up on my phone if he read their names to me. It was a great experience interacting with him and an opportunity for learning on both of our parts. After I was able to convince him to come upstairs with me.
The second floor houses a Theatre/Puppet Theatre, a boating area, a grocery area, a crafting area with loom, a light and shadow area and some other here and there exhibits. Once upstairs my son and I decided to make a mock Rube Goldberg device, he was really into setting up the pieces to make the marble go where we wanted. It took trial and error and patience. Afterwards we danced and created shadow figures with his sister in the light scribe area.
Then we all joined up in the boating exhibit to watch my younger son stash playfoods in the boat and run around with a child sized life vest on. I was able to share more time with my older son as he showed me how to work a loom, a piece of equipment he is familiar with because there is one in his classroom at Joliet Montessori School. The simple act of asking him to show me how it works opened up the opportunity to dialogue with him and he started recounting to me school events surrounding the loom in his class, different students, and his thoughts and feelings about them. If you have a pre-adolescent in your life you know how any morsel of information makes you feel like a starving mouse clinging to a crumb, but I tried to stay relaxed and not have on my “tell me more” face that can be a pre-teen turn off.
It may seem as though my older son was the only one to enjoy the museum, but he wasn’t. I was just surprised by how much fun he did seem to have, especially since there were only three or four other families present during our 3 hour visit. My daughter, who is 17 months old, enjoyed the crafting area where she was able to scribble and doodle with markers. She also visited the dress up area across from the theatre that is set up like a large vanity with hats and animal masks. The theatre itself is a large stage behind a red velvet curtain with a ticket booth on one side and a puppet stage on the other. At the back of the stage are mirrors and a wall lined with hats and costumes, bins full of puppets and room for imaginations to run wild.
The museum has a very homey feel to it and everything is child sized and set up for optimal enjoyment by the children who visit. Sure it isn’t the biggest museum around but sometimes less is more. At larger children’s museums children can become overwhelmed and over stimulated easily. For our youngest she can easily get lost in a crowd of overly rowdy big kids in mixed ages areas. This museum does not have walls to close in exhibits which gives it a very open large feel.
Our trip to the KidsWork Children’s Museum was $15 for our family of 5 because we have an ACM reciprocal membership which gives us 50% off the admission rate. Otherwise rates are as follows:
An annual membership that includes unlimited general admission for 2 adults and their children; invitations to special member’s only events; 10% off purchases in the Museum Store; 4 guest passes.
An annual membership that includes unlimited general admission for 2 adults and their children PLUS a guest every time you visit KIDSWORK. Invitations to special member’s only events; 10% off purchases in the Museum Store; 4 guest passes. This Reciprocal Membership offers half off discounted admission to more than 100 Association of Children’s Museum (ACM) participating museums. A complete list of ACM museums is available at the front desk.
GRANDPARENT FAMILY ………………………………………..$65.00
An annual membership that includes unlimited general admission for 2 grandparents and their grandchildren; invitations to special member’s only events; 10% off purchases in the Museum Store; 4 guest passes.
DAILY RATES ..Child $6.00 Adult $6.00 Senior $5.00
Ongoing events at the museum include Storytime Tuesdays and Special Needs Family Nights. There are also Summer Camps for the kids to attend so be sure to stop by KidsWork Children’s Museum at 11 S. WHITE STREET FRANKFORT, IL 60423 (On the main floor in the Trolley Barn) for a day of family fun.